Technology was the theme of the regular meeting of the Granby Board of Education on Wednesday evening.
Indeed, the no fewer than three major discussions and/or presentations centered on either the use of, or the school district’s policies on, technology.
The school board’s major discussion was focused on shaping the district’s policy on students bringing their own wireless devices to school for educational purposes.
School board Chairmal Cal Heminway said that he believed a discussion should be held by board members before the issue was brought up in subcommittee. While the use of wireless devices in schools wasn’t being directed from lawmakers, parents, students and teachers have been driving the discussion, Heminway said.
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Among the concerns brought up by board members was whether the school district was exposing itself to liability if it were to issue or require the purchase of a device - such as a laptop - to bring to school.
“Would that raise legal duties or obligations outside of the school?” asked school board member Lynn Guelzow, who brought up a scenario in which a student took home a school-issued device and used it to harass or cyberbully a fellow student. “It’s a new issue that raises significant questions that have not been hashed out yet.”
Heminway responded that he was wary of directing parents to purchase devices (i.e. laptops, iPads, etc.), but that the school district might be permissive of using such devices if parents chose to buy them on their own.
School board member Jenny Emery said that opened the door to questions concerning equity, namely what would become of students whose families that could not afford such devices.
“It’s going to come up somehow,” Emery said.
School board member Rosemarie Weber said that it was possible to perhaps have parents sign a waiver absolving the school district of liability if a school-issued device was used improperly. Parents signing waivers has precedent, namely in the realm of athletics, Weber said.
One thing was certain was that the school district had to address the issues - both of being allowed to bring devices to school and having access to them - because, as Emery noted, many high school students were already bringing their own devices to school.
“It’s so embedded in how kids do work,” Emery said. “I don’t see how kids can do their work two years from now without a device in their hands.”
School board student representative Sean Goodridge, a junior, estimated that 85 to 90 percent of his classmates were using some form of device already, namely for efficiency and organization purposes. Getting on a school computer was not always an option, according to Goodridge.
School board member Ed Ohannessian said that his concern had to do with, if the district directed parents to buy devices, that those devices should have the same capabilities, including software, necessary to fulfill curriculum requirements.
“How do we support that?” Ohannessian asked.
As far as the number of families that may have trouble affording devices, Superintendent of Schools Alan Addley - along with Goodridge - said that the number was not so significant as to be insurmountable.
“In different [towns] it would be a more significant problem,” Addley said.
No decision was made and the issue will be brought back before the board at a later meeting.
Annual Technology Report Given
In other business, prior to the discussion, the school board heard a presentation from Jon Lambert, the director of technology, on the annual technology report in the Granby public schools.
Among the highlights from 2011-12 were the following:
A district technology advisory committee was formed to facilitate the 2012-15 technology plan;
The student information system online course registration process for grades 8 - 12 was implemented;
ZippSlip online forms processing program was implemented at Kelly Lane, Wells Road and Kearns schools;
Online conference scheduling software at the high school was piloted;
The high school media lab and Kelly Lane computers were replaced; and a high school English department mobile device lab was created;
Some 2,500 technical support requests were serviced.
Power Thinking Through Animation
Technology was also the theme for the Schools in the Spotlight portion of the meeting, as fifth and sixth grade students from Wells Road Intermediate School showed off what they had done with the SCRATCH computer programming language.
The students (fifth graders Devin Mix, Sophie Speliopoulos, Hunter Chicoine and Ben Taylor along with sixth graders Jordan Cross, Evan Cramer, Katie Karabetsos and Josh Samplatsky) animated science concepts, as well as movie trailers for Greek myths, which were shown to school board members.
The fifth grade projects were selected to be exhibited at the Legislative Office Building as part of the Connecticut Educator Computer Association’s Technology Expo earlier in the day Wednesday.
The fifth graders - Mix, Speliopoulos, Chicoine and Taylor - met state Sen. John Kissel and state Rep. Bill Simanski and were invited into the legislative chambers.